6 Titles to Grow Your Feminist Philosophy: An Interview with a Steinem Sisters Feminist

Posted on March 8, 2024

by Melissa L

On Monday, March 25 at 6:00 pm, the Library is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Steinem Sisters Collection (and Gloria Steinem’s 90th birthday) at Main Library with A Steinem Celebration: 90 Years of Gloria.

Leading up to this event, we’ll be interviewing local feminists and members of the Steinem Sisters Collective. Our next interview is Ayla, a Steinem Sisters Collection Advisory Board member

Do you remember your feminist “aha” moment?

Ayla: I struggled with the label “feminist” for many years, which could be a whole other story. Embracing being a feminist meant leaving behind a lot of personal history, and ending some long-standing relationships and structures I had been involved with for years. 2016 post presidential election was an important moment (defining as it was for many) for my perspective shift, as I remember looking around at many “peers” and realizing their beliefs were no longer my own.

During this period of personal journey, I was professionally working as a labor and delivery nurse, and witnessing daily the negative impact of the patriarchy on the quality of birthing options we offered to people. Why were men making decisions about how to birth when they had second-hand knowledge at best, when a whole population of people who were experienced at birth were being ignored? The maternal health crisis in the US has recently gained more attention and momentum, much to the feminist movement and the demand to listen to women and to acknowledge their sovereignty over their needs.

Finally, learning the term “intersectionality” had a major impact on my feminist journey a few years ago – and may be as close to an “aha” moment as it comes for me. My background includes traveling to impoverished countries and areas, I have several family members in the disability community, and I am married to a first-generation immigrant to the US. Seeing feminism through the prism of intersectional thought helped me celebrate the progress and impact of feminism and see its broader future of addressing equality for all with a focus on intersectionality.

How have public libraries influenced your development as a feminist?

Ayla: I was primarily homeschooled, and we used the library multiple times a week as an activity and a resource. I would scan the juvenile fiction section for any titles that had to do with horses and take them all. I was like the mouse in Cinderella with the stacked-up cheese, but instead, I had a huge stack of books balanced under my chin. All these “horse girl” titles had the same essential plot. Girl wants a horse, girl gets what she wants, and she learns and accomplishes something important along the way. Reading those horse girl books I remember feeling empowered, inspired, and like the sky was the limit. If that isn’t feminism, I don’t know what is! I have to admit the real world was often a disappointment to preteen Ayla when it didn’t match up to these narratives, I was immersed in.

In recent years I joined the Steinem Sisters Collection Advisory Board, and through that opportunity have made incredible feminist connections and developed a deeper understanding of the feminist movement. I truly believe in the power of the universe to help us come full circle and return to things that shaped us – the library is one of those places for me.

What do you hope for the future of the Steinem Sisters Collection?

Ayla: I think the fact that TLCPL has the only [special] feminist collection [in public library] in the US is very cool, because yes, we should be setting trends in northwest Ohio! I am loving seeing the collection become more robust and visible in our community. Next, I have this dream of traveling to other library systems throughout the country and helping them launch their own feminist collections as well.

Can you share some of the books that have impacted you the most throughout your life?

Ayla: I’m mostly a fiction reader but do throw in non-fiction occasionally – here are some of my “must read” recommendations from the last few years that have resonated deeply with me as a person and have the strong feminist main character that we all want and need to inspire us.

Book Jacket: Educated

educated by Tara Westover

WOW. Just wow. I was reeling for weeks after finishing this memoir. You just have to pick it up. The journey she takes to freedom and safety from her family is not a story you will forget.

Book Jacket: The Night Circus

the night circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book is gorgeous - a beautiful love story woven through the tale of escaping from control and abuse from elders. Bonus - the audiobook is EXCEPTIONAL.

Book Jacket: The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness

the lady's handbook for her mysterious illness by Sarah Ramey

Another memoir, Sarah’s journey with chronic illness and the way she was treated (or NOT treated usually) by our healthcare system should feel familiar to most women. As a person who works in healthcare AND is deeply related to Sarah’s health journey, I devoured this book.

Book Jacket: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

the invisible life of addie larue by Victoria Schwab

All the reasons I loved this book: 1) V.E. Schwab is so cool and a total LGBTQ+ icon; 2) She is so early in her career and so incredibly accomplished - again, total icon; 3) This book is an epic designed to make you feel every single feeling; 4) ALSO an incredible audiobook.

Book Jacket: Circe

circe by Madeline Miller

A dramatized fiction retelling of the Greek goddess Circe, who harnessed her power as a witch. I could NOT stop rooting for her. This book is a celebration of women and their incredible power.

Book Jacket: Book Lovers

book lovers by Emily Henry

I’m a huge romance reader so I had to include one of my favs on this list. Emily Henry is the queen of banter - she creates such dynamic characters that I always finish her books and have to remind myself it was in fact, fiction. (And another superb audiobook!) Even if you aren’t a romance fan (yet), this book might be the one to change your mind.

Find your next great read in the Steinem Sisters Collection, located in the Fact and Fiction department of Main Library.

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